On 15 April 2022, Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) expressed his views on certain scenes of a local television drama series during a radio interview. Subsequently commentaries were published by some Chinese media outlets, which stated that the EOC has remained passive in tackling the “intra-racial discrimination” problem, and that the EOC Chairperson seldom speaks out when Mainlanders are being discriminated. Critics also claimed that on the other hand, the Chairperson quickly voiced out his opinions on the television drama incident, showing that he maintains double standards in treating the issues. Since these commentaries are extremely biased and may cause misunderstanding of the role and work of the EOC among the general public, the EOC feels it necessary to clarify and explain to the public its views and work on the issues.
- Regarding “intra-racial discrimination”, the EOC is all along concerned about the discrimination, harassment and vilification faced by Mainland Chinese and new arrivals to Hong Kong due to their residency status, and has been examining ways of tackling the problem through legislation. Back in 2016, the EOC already highlighted the need for legislative amendments in the Discrimination Law Review Report. In 2020, the EOC conducted an in-depth study again and submitted the legal study report to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in March 2021. At the meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs in October 2021, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs indicated that the Government would strive to complete the study before the end of the current term of the Administration, and would submit the legislative amendments to the Legislative Council afterwards.
- The incident of an actress who darkened her skin to play the role of a foreign domestic helper in the television drama series has aroused criticisms of racial discrimination and drawn debates on different views from both the media and the public. The EOC Chairperson was invited by Commercial Radio 1 “On a Clear Day” to participate in an interview. Taking into account that the topic is related to discrimination, harassment and vilification, the EOC accepted the invitation, leveraging on the opportunity to educate the public on concepts of discrimination. It is indeed a normal practice for media organisations to invite related guests to speak or explain on certain issues in their programmes. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the EOC Chairperson jumped out to speak on the incident.
- The commentaries also said that the EOC just followed what others said and echoed the views of foreign media and netizens. This accusation is extremely biased and twisted the truth. While the media and netizens were focusing on the appropriateness of “brownface”, the EOC Chairperson put forward his objective analysis in the radio interview and pointed out clearly that the public should not judge the matter solely based on “brownface”, but should consider the different aspects of the television drama as a whole. The EOC Chairperson pointed out that the dialogues of two scenes might make people feel uncomfortable or cause negative labelling of a certain racial group. This indicates that the EOC neither followed what others said nor echoed the views of foreign media and netizens. On the contrary, the EOC brought up independent and new perspectives on the subject so as to let the public understand the issue thoroughly. The EOC accepted the interview request with due regard to the influence of the mass media on the public. With strong ability in disseminating messages and influencing perceptions, television drama can help promote public understanding of an issue. Yet it can also entrench misunderstanding and stereotypes. Therefore, the EOC hopes that the media should avoid discriminatory stereotypes when producing drama.
- The EOC also noticed that certain commentators consider the stereotypical views of Mainlanders among some Hong Kong people to be discriminatory. Some people attack others who speak Putonghua, stigmatise and use discriminatory language towards Mainlanders. Yet according to the commentator the EOC did not come forth to condemn such acts. These criticisms are not true. In fact, the EOC publicly spoke out on many occasions about the discrimination against Mainlanders in Hong Kong, and issued several press releases explaining that the relevant behaviours may violate the law. The EOC believes that discriminatory and untruthful remarks will only divide the society and create conflicts. The EOC hopes that people from all walks of life remain rational and empathetic, and jointly build a diverse and inclusive society.
- The EOC hopes that the public would avoid labelling and an across-the-board approach when discussing discrimination issues. Instead, they should analyse them rationally, with the objective of finding solutions for the problems, rather than creating conflicts and exacerbating confrontation. The EOC believes that through discussions and pragmatic exchanges, all sectors of society can gain a positive lesson. The EOC hopes that the public can understand the stance and work of the EOC through this statement and avoid unnecessary misunderstanding.
Equal Opportunities Commission
20 April 2022